In Part 1 of How I Got Geeky, you learned that I bought a CB radio for $5 at a garage sale and through a series of buys/sells I ended up with $150 in my pocket.

Dead Printer

About the time I sold the dirt bike, my dad brought home a interesting looking “dot matrix” printer that they were about to throw away at his office. Home printed greeting cards were starting to show up around this time (1992-ish) and I decided I wanted to try to print one of my own with this new printer. My mom already had an old-school 8088 IBM PC-compatible with a “letter quality” (a.k.a loud) printer attached she used for her home based medical transcription business. I found some “shareware” greeting card software at the store and decided to hook the new dot matrix printer up (since the letter quality one wouldn’t print graphics) and try to print some cards. Well, I made the fatal mistake of unplugging the existing printer while the computer was on. Back in those days, parallel ports didn’t like that. How was I to know? My attempt at a printer swap fried the parallel port expansion board and left my mom’s computer unable to print at all. This was her computer/printer she used to run her business which provided income for the family. I was in hot water.

Troubleshooting

I tried every which way to get that thing working again but couldn’t figure it out. I plugged this or that cable in, tried to the old printer again, checked the printer settings in the software, etc. It was this experience that shed light on my interest in troubleshooting. I realized that I kind of enjoyed the process of trying to get that darn printer working again.

At the end of the day, I had to fess up to parents about messing up the printer and fortunately our next door neighbor was a computer whiz and was able to replace the I/O board for $50. Problem solved.

A few weeks later, I was playing around on my mom’s computer again (tinkering around with some settings and such) and managed to mess it up to the point where it wouldn’t even boot up. When you turned it on, DOS would say “Missing boot partition” or something of the like. Wow, I had *really* done it now. To make a long story short, I ended up calling various tech support helplines and getting advice on how to correct the issue. As they walked me through the process I learned a lot, and had some fun doing “low level” configurations. Finally, I was able to fix it before my mom found out!

After the printer and boot issue, it was obvious to me I was intrigued with tinkering with and troubleshooting computers. It was just plain fun to me.

My First Computer

Fast forward a few months. My Dad took notice of my interest in computers and relayed to me that his friend had an extra computer he was trying to sell. My Dad thought I might be interested. You bet I was. How much was it? You guessed it – $150. SOLD! Now I had my very own computer to tweak, configure and break. It was a blazing fast Unisys x386 with 4MB of memory and a 20MB hardrive. AND, it had a CGI (3 color) monitor. This was a major upgrade from my mom’s 8088 computer!

In Part 3, I’ll explain how I starting getting interested in programming.